IACHR Files Application Before Inter-American Court of Human Rights in Case Concerning Ecuador

May 23, 2023

Related links

Contact info

IACHR Press Office

[email protected]

Distribution List

Subscribe to our distribution list

Washington, D.C. – The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) filed on March 30, 2022, an application before the Inter-American Court of Human Rights in the case concerning the torture and extrajudicial killing of Gustavo Washington Hidalgo and a lack of due diligence to investigate them, with regard to Ecuador.

Gustavo Hidalgo was arrested by police officers during public celebrations on December 8, 1992, allegedly because he was drunk, and eyewitnesses say that he was beaten up and generally subjected to excessive violence. That same night, his brother went to see him at the site where he was being detained and found him dead, as was confirmed later in a medical report.

The Commission found that it is unquestionable that Hidalgo died while in State custody and that the autopsy said his physical integrity had been compromised. The IACHR further took into consideration reports of ill-treatment regarding the victim while he was being taken to the police station and while he was in a cell at the station, as well as reports that he was later executed. The IACHR found that the State had failed to conduct an investigation to try to establish that this use of force had been legitimate and reflected necessity and proportionality standards. The Commission also found that the violence suffered by the victim had the three aspects that mean it amounted to torture.

Various procedural aspects of this investigation suggest that the police officers involved in this case were never required to testify and that no other measures were taken in connection with this investigation in the years that followed. Even the victim's family was not called in to testify. The Commission further noted that the State had failed to provide an adequate explanation of the victim's death while in State custody. The Commission therefore concluded that the State had failed to meet its obligation of due diligence in criminal investigations, and that this investigation had also not been timely.

Finally, the IACHR found that the death of Gustavo Washington Hidalgo in these circumstances and the subsequent failure to ensure truth and justice caused suffering and anxiety to the members of his family who were mentioned in the Merits Report.

The IACHR therefore concluded that the State of Ecuador had violated the rights to life, humane treatment, judicial guarantees, and judicial protection held in Articles 4.1, 5.1, 5.2, 8.1, and 25.1 of the American Convention on Human Rights, concerning the obligations held in Article 1.1, against Gustavo Washington Hidalgo and his family. The IACHR also concluded that the State of Ecuador had violated the obligations held in Articles 1, 6, and 8 of the Inter-American Convention to Prevent and Punish Torture, for failing to investigate since November 9, 1999, the torture committed against Hidalgo, affecting his family's rights.

In its Merits Report, the Commission recommended that the State:

  1. Take measures to provide adequate material and immaterial reparations to the members of the victim's family who were mentioned in the report.
  2. Provide any physical and mental healthcare necessary for the rehabilitation of members of Hidalgo's family who requested it, in agreement with them.
  3. Re-open the relevant criminal investigation and conduct it in a diligent, effective and timely fashion, with a view to shedding light on these events, identifying anyone who may have been responsible for them, and imposing the relevant punishment (this investigation had to address the torture held in the Merits Report, and the State could not invoke a statute of limitations to refrain from complying with this recommendation because it involved serious human rights violations).
  4. Adopting non-recurrence mechanisms, including training for public prosecutors and other judicial officials concerning torture and concerning the standards that apply to investigations of deaths of individuals who are in State custody.

A principal, autonomous body of the Organization of American States (OAS), the IACHR derives its mandate from the OAS Charter and the American Convention on Human Rights. The Inter-American Commission has a mandate to promote respect for and to defend human rights in the region and acts as a consultative body to the OAS in this area. The Commission is composed of seven independent members who are elected in an individual capacity by the OAS General Assembly and who do not represent their countries of origin or residence.

No. 093/23

9:00 PM